The state Department of Transportation announced last week at a Newark press conference plans to shut down the Pulaski Skyway northbound for two years, starting February 2014, when it expects to begin a $1 billion rehabilitation of the 80-year-old, 135-feet-tall elevated highway.
The roadway, which is an extension of Highway Rts. 1&9, serves as an express link for cars and buses to and from the Holland Tunnel. It carries 67,000 vehicles daily between Newark and Jersey City, according to the DOT.
While it replaces the deck of the 3.5 mile-long Skyway, DOT will divert all northbound motorists while keeping open two lanes of southbound traffic.
Drivers traveling towards Newark will still be able to use the South Kearny exit of the skyway but they won’t be able to access the skyway going in the other direction.
In a posting on its website, DOT said the closure of the two northbound lanes during construction “cuts four years of construction time and more than $210 million in costs as compared to an alternative that would restrict deck replacement work to nights and weekends only, when many of the other regional construction projects will be using night and weekend closures.”
DOT said the closure will impact about 34,000 northbound vehicles daily, including 10,500 vehicles during the 6 to 9 a.m. rush. DOT said 62% of that traffic is headed for the New Jersey waterfront or New York City.
The N.J. Turnpike’s Newark Bay-Hudson County Extension (Rt. 78), Truck Rt. 1&9, the Turnpike’s Eastern Spur and Rt. 7 will likely get most of the northbound overflow, DOT said.
Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos noted that since bottlenecks periodically develop now along Truck Rt. 1&9, and floods during heavy rainstorms between Raymond Boulevard in Newark and the Communipaw Ave. bridge in Jersey City, congestion and backups figure to be even worse during the northbound skyway closures.
“Kearny Police Department will work with DOT if traffic flow gets excessive,” Santos said, “but with very little shoulder room along that roadway and periodic bridge openings, there really isn’t much we can do. It’ll be difficult but we’ll have to get used to it because repairs to the skyway are essential and overdue. It’s a necessary cost of a necessary repair.”
DOT said it has spent nearly $90 million over the past seven years on interim repairs to keep the skyway functioning. The structure is listed on the N.J. and National Registers of Historic Places.
DOT is delaying the northbound lane closures until after all events associated with the National Football League’s Super Bowl which is being hosted in February 2014 by MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
The deck replacement is expected to be completed prior to the start of work to reconnect Rt. 7 to the new Wittpenn Bridge, the DOT said.
DOT said the repairs will be implemented through several contracts, including one that actually started last year, to remove concrete encasements from structural steel to assess their condition and make any needed repairs. Others involve rehabilitation of the Kearny, Broadway and Newark ramps, steel repairs, seismic retrofit substructure repairs and painting the steel structure which will continue through 2020.
DOT Commissioner James Simpson said plans are being disclosed a full year ahead of construction to allow commuters, emergency service providers, local officials, residents and business owners to suggest “alternative travel routes and commuting strategies to help relieve congestion during peak travel periods.”
A DOT survey form is available by going online to www.pulaskiskyway.com or by visiting the DOT website, www.nj.gov/transportation, placing your cursor on “In the Works” and selecting “Our Projects & the Environment” from the drop-down menu. Then, scroll to a list of project links at the bottom of the page and click on “Pulaski Skyway.”
– Ron Leir